Unfortunately, certain serious mistakes tend to be made during the development process. Some of these errors are caused by inexperience. Others may be fueled by the team’s admirable intention of making something remarkable, yet being unable to rein in their ideas and set reasonable limits. And quite often, problems arise because the creative team is eager to plunge into preproduction and is too impatient to invest sufficient time in planning. Based on my own experience and on interviews with experts, here are five of the most common and serious errors that occur during the creative process.
1. Throwing too much into the project. In cases like this, the creative team may have become intoxicated with a promising new technology or with exciting new ways to expand the content. But this sort of enthusiasm can lead to many problems. It can cause the project to go over budget or require it to carry too expensive a price tag for the market. The project may take far longer to produce than the time originally slotted for it, causing it to miss an important market date. Or the finished product may be too complex for the end-user to enjoy.
2. Not considering your audience. This error can be fatal to a project. If you do not have a good understanding of your audience, how can you be sure you are making something it will want, or will have the ability to use? Misjudging your audience can lead to:
– creating subject matter they are not interested in, or find distasteful;
– developing content for a platform, device, or technical ability they do not possess;
– developing an educational or training program that omits key points they need to know, or that goes over their heads;
– developing content for children that is not age-appropriate.
3. Making the product too hard or complicated. This error can stem in part from Error #2, not knowing your audience. You need to understand what the end-users are capable of doing, and not make unrealistic demands on their abilities. Sometimes this error is caused by poor design, and is allowed to slip by because of inadequate testing. Whatever the cause, an overly difficult product will lead to unhappy end-users. As game designer Katie Fisher of Quicksilver Software said: “When a game becomes work, it’s not fun for the player.” Her comment is true not just of games but for any type of interactive content, be it a smart toy, an immersive movie, or an iTV show. If it is too hard to figure out, people are not going to want to invest their time in it.
4. Making the product too simple. This is the other side of the coin for Error #3. We are not talking here, however, about the product being too simple to use—simplicity in functionality is a good thing. We are referring to overly simple content. The content of an interactive work needs to be challenging in some way; otherwise, users will lose interest. It should also contain enough material to explore, and things to do, to keep the users absorbed for a significant amount of time. If it is too thin, they will feel they have not gotten their money’s worth. To gauge the appropriate amount of playing time for your product, it is advisable to become familiar with similar products on the market. Focus group testing is also helpful in this matter.
5. Not making the product truly interactive. In such cases, users are not given sufficient agency to keep them involved. When this happens, the flaw can usually be traced back all the way to the initial concept. In all likelihood, the premise that the product was built upon was weak in terms of its interactive potential, even if it might have been an interesting one for a non-interactive type of entertainment. In a successful interactive product, the interactivity must be organic from the outset and not just an afterthought.
Excerpt from Digital Storytelling by Carolyn Handler Miller © 2014 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.